Daguerreotypes (1976)

Directed by Agnes Varda

One of the crazy ideas that I had while I was in college was for a year long writing project which could be translated into a blog or a series of articles in the campus newspaper or some other outlet. That project was essentially going around to random people and striking up a conversation and learning more about them, what their story is. I love learning about new people and believe that nobody is without an interesting story. Some people may be more interesting than others and have more unique, entertaining experiences but everyone comes from somewhere, everyone has some sort of story to tell. That appears to be a sentiment shared by famous French filmmaker Agnes Varda, whose approach is very similar here.

Varda lived on Rue Daguerre in Paris France, a street named after Louis Daguerre, who was the first to develop a photographic process in the 1800s which was subsequently used for many of the portrait pictures of the time. This is amazing, and I don’t understand how Varda could be so lucky to fall into this wonderful interconnected title/idea for a film. She lives on Rue Daguerre, living with fellow daguerreotypes, with a curious, filmmaking mind who wants to paint their portrait. And that is what she does, by capturing the everyday lives of the typical person on a basic street in Paris. She asks the basic questions and observes the typical interactions of these small business owners.

Varda is a filmmaker I just discovered last year and my appreciation has grown by leaps and bounds simply due to this woman’s endless capacity to explore and learn new things about pretty much anything. She has a curiosity which reminds me only of German filmmaker Werner Herzog, and my experience with both is similar. I have only seen their documentary work, but am eager to delve into their fiction films as well. Varda should be applauded for making this film and having the ambition to approach a project like this. At the end of the day I fully believe that she made precisely the film which she wanted to make.

However, I couldn’t help but feel like the project did not pan out quite the way I had imagined it might. Varda does what she sets out to do, but with most any documentary the final product is directly related to how fascinating its subject matter is. In this case I didn’t find any of the people being observed and interviewed all that noteworthy. I will say this that Varda allowed the people to breath and simply exist on screen. Her camera seems to wander at all the right times to all the right things.

I can’t really give the film my backing. In fact I found the film to be somewhat boring overall. But what I did take from the film is a greater appreciation for Varda for at least trying to make this work. She clearly has an insatiable curiosity which is perhaps the strongest attribute for a great filmmaker. And her methods here suit that, so while I did not enjoy this film, I am confident that there are many Varda films out there that I will enjoy. So this film gave me confidence that I love Agnes Varda, even if I do not love this film.


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